Vietnam Swans write to AFL Chairman, Mike Fitzpatrick regarding proposal for Vietnam Veterans’ Day blockbuster in 2013
Posted by Vietnam Swans on August 26, 2012
Last month, on 20 July 2012, Vietnam Swans National President, Phil Johns, wrote to AFL Chairman, Mike Fitzpatrick, proposing that the AFL host a match dedicated to the war veterans on Vietnam Veterans’ Day, Sunday, 18 August, 2013 (18 August commemorates the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan in 1966).
Next year is particularly significant because 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and Vietnam – a milestone that the Australian Government is reportedly keen to recognise and celebrate.
Mike Fitzpatrick is reportedly “interested” in the proposal but has said that any decision would need to be taken by AFL CEO, Andrew Demetriou. Below is an edited extract of the email to the AFL Chairman.
Would a Vietnam Veterans’ Day Match detract from the ANZAC Day Blockbuster?
- The ANZAC Day blockbuster is super successful and its premiere status must be preserved. But a growing number of AFL clubs are questioning why they cannot share the financial and non financial returns of this occasion. A Vietnam Veterans’ Day match could potentially complement and help to preserve the status of the ANZAC Day Match by easing the building pressure.
- 25 April and 18 August are virtually the book ends of the home and away season. These two anniversaries are separated by four months. Playing the Last Post on 25 April confirms that the new AFL season is well and truly underway. The second time in the season that the Last Post is played, it also announces that we have entered the home straight to the AFL Finals.
Can a Vietnam Veterans’ Day Match be a stand alone event?
- Australia recognises Vietnam Veterans’ Day by a service at the Long Tan Cross at 3.30pm local time. This is 6.30pm Australian Eastern Standard Time – which opens up the possibility of a live telecast of the minute’s silence at Long Tan. On ANZAC Day at the MCG, 100,000 people speak of hearing nothing more than the Australian and New Zealand flags flapping in the breeze. At (approx) 6.45pm on 18 August, a crowd at an AFL stadium could share a similar experience – while watching live images of the minute’s silence at the Long Tan Cross on the scoreboard against the darkness of the night’s sky.
- Sherrin footballs have travelled to armed conflicts before. In Vietnam, the Diggers actually played a thriving competition from 1966-71 that was known as the VFL (Vietnam Football League). These Diggers remain organised and plentiful. They are available for interviews and have numerous photos and records of those times (click here for actual photographs).
Examples of existing connections between the AFL and Vietnam Veterans Day
- A month ago, the AFL inducted a number of players into its Hall of Fame including Graham Cornes and Glenn Archer. The former is a Veteran. The latter is the son of a Veteran.
- Nathan Buckley, Lenny Hayes, Chad and Kane Cornes are all sons of Veterans.
- Glenn James is a Veteran who also played in the Vietnam Football League.
- Kevin Sheedy’s brother in law, Kenny Earney, is a Veteran.
Examples of high profile, non AFL, Veterans who could potentially support this proposal and bring exposure
- Former Governor General, Michael Jeffery.
- Former Deputy Prime Minister, Tim Fischer.
- Former Head of the Defense Forces and current Qantas Board member, Peter Cosgrove.
Who would potentially support the proposal?
- The Australian Government is looking for vehicles to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and Vietnam.
- The Vietnam Veterans remain hungry for recognition of their contributions and sacrifices. Such an event could provide a significant healing opportunity of national significance.
- The Defense Department needs living war heroes to help support its current recruitment campaigns – and the numbers of WWII veterans are dwindling.
- There is an assumption that issues haven’t quite been resolved for the Vietnam Veterans. A dedicated football match would open the discussion and the public could feel like they were doing something positive just by attending the match or watching it on the television.
- Businesses with interests in Vietnam could be supportive; eg Stock and Land newspaper reports that “AWI is hoping to kickstart promotion (of a new office in Vietnam) when the Australian government coordinates celebrations of 40 years of trade and diplomatic relations with Vietnam next year.”
Benefits to the AFL
- The creation of a blockbuster of national significance.
- Irrespective of preference to particular sporting codes, a match on Vietnam Veterans’ Day could resonate with all Australians – opening up a dialogue between the AFL and supporters of rugby, soccer etc. This type of blockbuster could be particularly good for the new clubs in the northern states.
- The Vietnam War is an important and troubled piece of Australian history. A dedicated match could help with the understanding and healing of this period. It would further consolidate the AFL’s pre eminent position in the country of using Australia’s Signature Sport to tackle issues of national significance.
- By hosting the match in 2013, the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, the AFL would be taking the stage on an international issue. That stage could then be used to talk about and explore further the AFL’s international initiatives. While the modern day Australia/Vietnam relationship is dynamic and current, ANZAC Day, is overwhelmingly about Gallipoli and a different era. It’s not about current international relationships and initiatives (I am not saying that Vietnam needs to be the focus of the AFL; rather, it’s just a vehicle to make “international” more relevant).
Playing the match
- The AFL will have an exhaustive list of criteria as to which teams should play and the venue to be used. And, if the concept was repeated in subsequent years, whether venues and teams should be rotated or fixed like the ANZAC Day match. All I suggest is that the pre match formalities would commence at approximately 6.30pm AEST and I would presume that the focus of the match would be outside Victoria, probably focusing initially at least on the rugby states.
Timing, risk and the potential for success
- If the idea is to fly, it must be 2013 – the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations. That allows the AFL to safely “test the waters” by promoting it as a one off event.
- Next year, 18 April will fall on a Sunday – so the AFL will already have matches scheduled for that day.
- After the inaugural match was played, an informed assessment could then be made as to whether the event could be repeated in 2014 and beyond.
- In 2013, Vietnam Veterans can be recognised while they are still relatively young and plentiful. If done properly, they would become great ambassadors for the event for many years to come giving it the legitimacy that would allow it to grow into a blockbuster.
- Anecdotally, based upon the way that the three Vietnam Swans’ ANZAC Friendship Matches have been received, I have considerable confidence that the concept has enormous potential. Of course, our event is based upon a very small sample – but it’s of the right people. To read some comments from Veterans and non Veterans, click here. Or view the (low budget) documentary we have just placed on You Tube (eg 16mins where it refers to the VFL competition before leading into an interview three veterans on the couch talking about their experiences).
I think this is an extraordinary opportunity of quite profound significance in terms of Australia’s history. I think that in 2013, the planets are in alignment. And I think the AFL would be a big beneficiary. And all I can do is raise the idea with the decision makers.
[Vietnam Swans update2 27 August 2012]: Some feedback being received by the Vietnam Swans is that perhaps the AFL proposed match, while still being held on 18 August, should be more inclusive by honouring all veterans regardless of the war/conflict they served in. This would broaden its relevance and recognise the contributions made by diggers in theatres such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Rawanda etc. So, while the ANZAC Day match tends to focus on those who did not return home, a Veterans’ Match could focus on those who have returned home.
Items of related interest
- Vietnam Swans write to Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Trade, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, and Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Click here to read.
- Austin Robertson writes in the Subiaco Post, Let’s have a blockbuster for Viet Vets.
- World Footy News reports on Proposal for Vietnam Veterans’ Day blockbuster.
- The Vietnam Swans first raised this proposal publicly on 18 June 2012 with the post, An AFL Match to celebrate 40 years on Vietnam Veterans’ Day in 2013?